Babel Rising is an action strategy game where you play the part of a spiteful god, raining down your smite on the plebeians that are trying to appease you with their architectural prowess. Alternatively – you throw rocks at peons to stop them building stuff. Buildings suck, smash them all.
When you hear the premise to this game it sounds freakin’ sweet. Who doesn’t love to pull out some godly powers for no other reason than killing small ant-like creatures? It really is satisfying sometimes when you can just sit down and kill shit for no good reason – so going into this game, I thought it would be pretty fun, and it is…for a while.
The gameplay is a bit like a tower defense, except the AI is building the tower, and you have to defend it from being completed. So it is more like a tower offense – kill them (and the tower) before they can get high enough into the sky to threaten your godly status. You can use the good old four elements to beat these little peons to death – earth, wind, water and fire, and the idea is that you use a combination of two of these elements at any one time to compliment each other and kill things faster.
Although you are a god, your powers are limited – as you would expect from a game, who would want a game with no challenge? – but I’ve found that this limiting of powers makes the game a bit too challenging in the early stages. For the first hour or so of the game, you are defending against one line of peons that walk up the outside of the tower and add their bit to the top – as they go up, you have to kill them to stop them getting to the top. As expected, the first few levels are pretty much the same, introducing the new elements slowly so you get the hang of them. After this, it throws you into a new tower design where there are two paths up the outside of the tower – therefore two lanes of peons to attack at the same time. The two lines are on the opposite sides of the tower, so you have to spend a lot of time switching back and forth to see where each line is at, and kill the guys that are getting up higher. It is a pretty simple premise, but one that gets very difficult, very fast.
Luckily the camera movement in the game is brilliant. Smooth, easy to control, and uses the keyboard arrows – so you can concentrate on your smiting with the mouse while the arrows do you panning around the tower to view each lane. However beyond this, the game seems to fall over a bit. When aiming your powers (on the thin lanes of peons) you have to be deadly accurate – something that is pretty hard to achieve when you have multiple lanes to keep track of at the same time. When you are not accurate, half of your powers just stop dead. Powers that are made to be AOE and last a good 3 or 4 seconds just stop (and still use all of your power-juice) after half a second. Because of the needed limits on your powers, you also have to wait for them to warm up again, so when you have a bunch getting near the top, and you try to use your AOE to take care of them all, it can – and will – fail, meaning they will build up the tower and you will lose.
Another unfortunate feature of the game is the length of each level – and the weird choices for level gameplay. Each level tends to take about 15 minutes – normally this wouldn’t be too bad – but when you’re stuck with the same two elements for the entire level, and the actual gameplay on the level doesn’t change at all, this can get pretty old, pretty fast. The lack of variety just pushes you into one technique that you employ for the entire level, which is all you need to win it.
They try to counter this by changing the goals on each level to something different. One level might be “Kill 400 peons”, the next one “Survive for 10 minutes” – but this just boils the actual gameplay down the the exact same thing, meaning you’ll be playing the same level twice in a row – doing the exact same combinations you did to win on the first level.
It is a good idea for a game, and one that could have come out pretty nice, but the seeming lack of thought gone into the level design and level gameplay (and gameplay elements overall) make it a pretty boring game. A bit more time spent on changing things up – and balancing the levels – would work wonders on this game, but as it currently stands it is not the greatest.